Trust and transparency remain more important and valuable than ever.

Over the past few years of political turmoil and revelations across the digital ecosystem, we’ve learned the uncomfortable extent to which our data has been harvested, shared and manipulated, through the revelations of the Cambridge Analytica Files; that Facebook’s metrics weren’t all they were cracked up to be; and we’ve opened the lid and shone a light into the murky programmatic supply chain.

We’ve also seen our own government and politicians across the world act in increasingly untransparent and distrustful ways. There is Muller’s ongoing investigation in the US and the worrying trend of media repression in countries including Turkey and the US to name but two. If we look to our own country, I’m writing this just after the British government postponed the parliamentary vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. It’s fair to say right at this moment trust in our politicians is low.

It’s also fair to say the demand for quality, trusted journalism has never been stronger. I can see it with my own eyes. I’m looking at our in-house real time data tool and, at times, the surges in traffic to our politics live blogs look like level nine earthquakes on the Richter scale. In times of crisis and confusion people come to The Guardian.

This isn’t a one off. Over the past few years our readers have become increasingly engaged with our journalism and our purpose. They are increasingly supportive and we have the contributions and supporter numbers to prove it – since April 2016 we have received one million financial contributions.

In a world of distrust, confusion and fake news, people are loyal to proven quality and credibility. This applies to brands as much as it does to publishers.

The advertising industry has long been a jewel in the crown of the UK – a strong and inspiring performer in our creative sector – attracting the best talent from across the globe who set trends and raise standards. The news and advertising industries have long enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship.  Advertisers gain access to engaged audiences and quality environments and therefore increase brand awareness and sales. In return the media is funded and gets to continue to hold power to account and create entertaining content, which keeps attracting and engaging audiences … the virtuous cycle continues.

It is heartening then, at first glance, to see Group M’s prediction that UK advertising is expected to surpass the £20 billion mark for the first time in 2019. However, a deeper delve into the forecast shows this is largely fuelled by the digital giants. There is still a lag between our recognition that we need quality and trusted environments and where ad spend is actually going.

We all know the only certainty right now is uncertainty. We should be doubling down on what makes us worthwhile – our quality, the trust we inspire, and our transparency. My enduring view is those with their integrity intact and an honest, good relationship with their audience will have the tools to navigate through the upcoming disruptions.

Good advertising and good media will continue to be a pairing that works. But we cannot stand still – we need to innovate and ensure we’re delivering the best and most sustainable business models where we all benefit and contribute to a healthy and quality internet.

This year’s LEAD will cover the key themes of our industries’ times – trust, transparency and transformation. Without trust and transparency, meaningful transformation can never happen. LEAD is an opportunity for these values to take centre stage and set the agenda for the coming year – a year in which I believe positive transformation is not only necessary, but possible and likely.

We’re proud partners of the LEAD festival and more than any other year I’m looking forward to hearing from some of the most inspiring voices in our industry, establishing our common ground and collaborating on making 2019 a year for positive transformation. The UK’s ad industry should continue to set the global standard, and The Guardian is here to play its part.


For more information on LEAD or to book a ticket, click here.